Westgate attacks halt tournament
26 September 2013, 19:26
Nairobi -The Africa Cup of Nations hockey tournament which was due to begin on Thursday in Nairobi, has been postponed due to the recent Westgate mall attack.
"From a timing perspective it was not the appropriate time," SA Hockey Association (Saha) chief executive Marissa Langeni said on Thursday.
Gunmen entered the Westage mall in Nairobi on Saturday and used automatic weapons and grenades to kill 67 people.
The country is currently in three days of national mourning following the end of the four-day siege at the mall.
The African Hockey Federation (AFHF), as well as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) postponed the tournament until further notice.
Langeni added that prior to the mall attack, two nations due to take part in the Cup of Nations - which serves as Africa's qualifier tournament for the hockey World Cup in the Netherlands next year - had withdrawn. Nigeria and Namibia did not give reasons for their decision.
"Normally with African hockey, a lot of the nations depend on governments to pay their bills. I think for them it was purely financial reasons and that was last week Thursday when they withdrew.
"Essentially, it was already a watered-down tournament and then of course with the Westgate incident then taking place, Africa hockey and the FIH jointly decided that it was the best thing to postpone the tournament."
As defending champions in both the men's and women's tournament, South Africa was looking forward to retaining its crowns to qualify for next year's World Cup.
With only three nations competing in the men's tournament - South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya - and four in the women's event - South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania - Langeni said there were major concerns in the build-up to the event.
"From our perspective we withheld a lot of the preparations in terms of final departure dates," she said.
"Purely because we were concerned by the number of withdrawals that the tournament had experienced and we were waiting to get final confirmation of the final fixtures.
"We were also negotiating a re-look at the fixtures. We found that with the men's tournament being a three nation event, they were going to sit out for five days and not have any activity.
"We had already formally written to the AFHF to look at the fixtures, to revise the fixtures to allow for the men's competition to start slightly later than the women's tournament."
Although no indication has been given by the FIH or the AFHF as to the revised date of the tournament, Langeni was hopeful a new one would be decided in due course.
"We're all anxious to find out what the new date is and to obviously look at the preparations."